In “Beyond Madrid”, a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in May, the prime minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, provided insight into the Great Islamic Jihad from a South Asian viewpoint.
The war against terrorism could shape the 21st century in the same way as the Cold War defined the world before the fall of the Berlin Wall. To win, we must first clearly understand what we are up against… My perspective is formed by our own experiences in Southeast Asia, which post 9/11 has emerged as a major theatre for terrorist operations. In December 2001, Singapore arrested 15 people belonging to a radical Islamic group called the Jemaah Islamiyah [JI]. They were plotting even before 9/11 to attack American and other Western interests in Singapore.
Singapore has Muslim minority of about 15%, so that its experience is probably typical of Western-oriented states on the border of the ummah. It is these governments which will bear the brunt of the attempts to build a new worldwide caliphate. Singapore has uncovered the network of jihadists who pursue this goal:
But the most crucial conclusion our investigations revealed was this: the existence of a transregional terrorist brotherhood of disparate Southeast Asian groups linked by a militant Islamic ideology to each other and to al Qaeda. Whatever their specific goals, these groups were committed to mutual help in the pursuit of their common ideology: they helped each other with funds and support services, in training, and in joint operations.
The ideology of these radical jihadis who pursue the caliphate is known as salafi.
Our experience in Southeast Asia is not without wider relevance because of what the salafis themselves believe. This is what one of them, an Algerian named Abu Ibrahim Mustafa, has said: “The war in Palestine, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Algeria, in Chechnya, and in the Philippines is one war. This is a war between the camp of Islam and the camp of the Cross, to which the Americans, the Zionists, Jews, their apostate allies, and others belong. The goal of this war, which they falsely called a war on terror, is to prevent the Muslims from establishing an Islamic state…”
The prime minister then addresses a series of rhetorical questions to moderate Muslims:
Do you seek to change the world by prayer and faith? Do you work with an imperfect reality and strive towards its perfection? Do you not reject all that is not Islamic and seek to destroy it by force so as to re-establish the perfect caliphate? These are all questions that vibrate and resonate around a single axis of faith.
He hopes that by encouraging the moderates in the Islamic community and engaging them in dialogue, an alternative to the extreme Islamists can emerge and take part in the political sphere. But the war against the Islamofascists will still have to be fought.
Only the U.S. has the capacity to lead the geopolitical battle against the Islamic terrorists. Iraq has become the key battleground. Before he was killed in Saudi Arabia, Yousef Al Aiyyeri, author of the al Qaeda blueprint for fighting in Iraq, said, “If democracy succeeds in Iraq, that would be the death of Islam.”
The Islamists know that a democratic Iraq is a threat, and they will do all in their power to prevent it from coming into being. As the nascent political parties jostle for position in the January elections, once again we are left with the all-important question: Where does mainstream Islam stand?